Open Source Identity

What’s the correct term, “free software” or “open source”? Well it depends on the person you ask. If you believe in Richard Stallman of Free Software Foundation, the right term is  invariably  free software, the central aim was and remains propagation of freedom. If you believe in the Open Source Initiative, the correct term is “open source”. Whatever is your preference, the  ideology vs methodology debate is simply a matter of philosophy because like it or not, the ideals of Stallman and the open source definition of OSI are just two sides of collaborative software development methodology. The bone of contention is simply how is it going to be sustained in the long run. The FSF wants software to be a matter of freedom (not price) while OSI gives free rein on however you use it. Monetization or not, sustainability is the name of the game.

Free software or open source, it’s the community who owns the software. It is the community that controls the software. Explaining open source in depth to a newbie won’t be complete without explaining its historical ties with the Free Software movement. Explaining open source entails explaining the licenses being approved by FSF and the OSI. That is the minimum required for software to be categorized as free software or open source. The license identifies the software distinct from proprietary software.

So a distro like Linux XP that depends on Fedora is still open source even if it dons a Windows XP coat. Linux XP is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Linux XP users are bound to learn the gist of Linux no matter what. You cannot escape Linux even if it looks and feels like XP because underneath, it’s open source. Or free software…

Update: A TechRadar blog post entitled “Linux is Winning” says that

the success of open-source software is so difficult to judge using the same language as its competitors.

That is exactly the reason why open source is an identity. Open source is distinct from proprietary software.

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